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Modern Hookup CULTure

By Jessenia Nozzolillo

If you couldn't tell by the dramatic title, I'm not really a fan of modern dating. This doesn't mean I prefer old ways either, like forcing our daughters into marriage and so on. Just saying, we can do better and should recognize the toxic communication patterns we are participating in before they become more problematic for our relationships and healing. Seems so many people want a “healthy evolved relationship” but aren’t necessarily coming into the connection in the authentic transparent way needed to make lasting soul bonds.

Games are a thing of the past. The soul knows who is here for you and destined to cross your path. The right people need your authentic self and the wrong people will see their way out. We need to stop being inauthentic to ourselves for the sake of a quick fling or companion.

I’m going to start this off by practicing what I preach and transparently acknowledge I don’t have much of a personal history with dating in this particular life. Most of my experiences and relationships have been forced, presented though traumatic situations/bonds, or situations where people chose me and I felt obligated to participate because I thought I had to and had no choice. Strange dynamics I know, but if you know anything about my childhood — the patterns repeat. Most relationships, not all. And even all of these accumulated experiences are less than a handful. And if you missed that, if you are participating in any of these communication blocks and issues below, THE PATTERN REPEATS. Most of the things shared here I have learned channeling Spirit in session with clients working on strengthening their relationships and getting better results dating. It’s not about shaming ourselves for the way we express our pain, attachment issues or relationship blocks. It’s about acknowledging that the patterns stem from a deep inner dialogue and point of origin we can surface, heal, and clear, releasing ourselves of the patterns.

Part of my distaste for the current dating culture is what people consider normal dating tendencies. It’s never truly resonated with me. So many friends and acquaintances have tried “coaching” me through the dating “game” telling me when to pull away, to feed the chase, and to be mysterious. Referring to dating as a game is enough to put me off. Dating should not be an outlet for emotional manipulation to get results you THINK you want, and I see nothing beneficial with emotionally manipulating people into responses that feed your ego. I also want to acknowledge you will never create healthy relationships from manipulated roots. As much as we like to be challenged, chased, and enjoy mental stimulation — dating is not a game. People are not pawns to your emotional baggage and we need to get better at respecting that if the goal is a civilized and evolved collective experience.

On this blog I thought I could discuss some of the relationship “games” I’ve seen and why I don’t play.

Ghosting: this is wildly common today in dating. People simply disappear off the face of the Earth when they are distracted or done with someone. They avoid and run away from the communication and closure. Dating really is a way to train healthy communication and boundaries for the relationships you want to nurture. Practice by being respectful to those you aren’t interested in! Being able to have the courage to say, “Thank you for the experience, but this isn’t working for me anymore” is a lot healthier than just disappearing off the face of the Earth. If you are someone who ghosts people, try just telling them you aren’t interested.

I find a common reason for ghosting is many people who ghost just want to leave doors open so they feel like they have options if the person they are interested in doesn’t work out. If you really care about someone enough to make them an option while you figure things out with someone you are vibing, then say it! There is nothing wrong with testing the waters, deciding to commit yourself to an experience, and then deciding maybe it wasn’t what you thought it was. If people like and respect you, or if they are made for you, they will wait.

If you are the “second choice,” I know it might feel painful to be someone’s second choice, but the truth is they tried and tested the waters and decided you were better for them. We heal through relationships and sometimes people need to learn a lesson before they are healthy for us, so as much as I used to think this was not great, I now understand the need for learning and exploration. Let them come to you “fully potenched!”

The pressure on not being open about exploration and finding ourselves first eventually leads to more lying and sometimes infidelity. So if that’s not something you want in a relationship, be open from the beginning and let them test the waters as needed before settling into their choices. But also acknowledge that if you like and truly care about them, you should not be giving them relationship energy without any type of commitment, if commitment is what you desire. So even if you are second choice, wait to be chosen before pouring. The old saying, “why buy the cow when the milk is free” comes to mind. I hate the saying, but someone who is “testing the waters” and noncommittal will keep drinking milk for free if you allow it. What’s the point of settling if they are getting everything they want from you? The calls, texts, check-ins, dates and sex — that’s all relationship status agreements without relationship status labels. Don’t allow yourself to be used if that’s not what you want! And if that IS what you want, be open about it! There are plenty of people who want relationship energy without the commitment.

Find the right person with open communication about what you are ready for and what you are not ready for. We ghost to avoid the uncomfortable conversations, but the most powerful lessons and relationships come when we have those conversations anyways!

Mystery: the tactic of not letting your date know too much about you. Let me be clear, there is also an issue with oversharing. But no relationship “guru” is saying “leap into a relationship and overshare” it seems the tactic is mystery. Why is this manipulation? Essentially, it’s the practice of withdrawing information because one believes that if someone knows you too well, they will run. If we are practicing healthy communication in relationships, we want people to run because we don’t necessarily need to waste our time manipulating a “positive” response from the person we are dating. We simply acknowledge the right person will love who I am, as I am. And if they don’t, that’s perfectly fine too! Not everyone will be my flavor. If you are afraid that someone will run away the second they know too much about you then you are showing shame for your past and personality. The way we can heal that is being more authentic about our challenges and growth. This doesn’t mean they need to know EVERYTHING about you like the type of stool you had this morning. Healthy conversations require a balance of give and take. Speak, listen, observe, and repeat.

The illusion of delay, “space”: intentionally going out of your way to not reply, leave people on read, “play busy” is just another manipulation tactic. I am an incredibly busy woman. I run my own business, I have a team of children, I have a farm of pets living inside my house. Some days we are running to 4 extracurricular activities after a busy day of sessions, emails, appointments, errands and cleaning. I still text back. I never miss an opportunity to show my loved ones I care. Life is too short to miss an opportunity to tell someone you are thinking about them, care about them, and miss them! Being responsive isn’t a weakness. It isn’t desperation. It’s another kid of affection in a fast paced world where we stopped valuing connection.

If someone said, “You need to go to the hospital or you will die right now,” we wouldn’t say, “Let me look at my schedule and see if I have time.” Right? We simply do the thing because it’s important to us. The idea is time is an illusion of the human mind. We naturally prioritize things that matter to us making space for people we care about or projects we invested energy into. And no, not everyone deserves your time and responses! But simply be clear about that. Acknowledge that “I will only be checking these once a week because dating isn’t really my priority. Healing and family is.” Or “I work 3 jobs so I don’t jump on this platform often. Please don’t take that personally.” You owe no one anything and your time is your most valuable possession. But if you are getting messages and intentionally timing out a 40 minute or 3 day delay period before responding just to build tension then the manipulated message is, “You aren’t my priority and I need you to know that so you try harder.” The energy behind that is, “I’m not prioritizing this connection because I don’t value it. I want you to try harder and I am manipulating your emotions playing on your wounds.” Not cute.

Consider why you are dating if you aren’t taking the time to prioritize dating. Consider why you are reaching out to people you refuse to entertain. Consider why you are thriving on anxious attachment. Consider the blocks and fears you have to relationships and allowing yourself to be liked, accepted, and received.

Anxious attachment is usually birthed in childhood with an avoidant or absent parent. You are afraid to get close to people and love fully because you think they will leave. Your parents’ behavior was likely unpredictable and unstable so you want to be loved and have the attention of messages and texts but don’t actually feel safe participating in them and reciprocating energy in case you get hurt again. This leads us to the next manipulation tactic. You need therapy, not games. The most interesting thing about this wound is your fear of people running away will only be accomplished faster on this road. No one likes to be played.

Playing it cold: this is the act of not sharing your feelings or emotions, fearing like they won’t be reciprocated. Spirit once told me, “It’s your job to state how you feel. How they respond is their responsibility. You have no control over that.” Sharing our feelings is an act of vulnerability, yes. But it’s a powerfully courageous and respectable thing to do! If someone is healthy and interested, it would never lead to fear, restrictive energy or running away. It would lead to a deeper level of safety and connection for you both. Stop running from reality and express. The right people will appreciate it. Emotions don’t make us weak. It’s an act of courage to share feelings.

Waiting for someone to label you: the act of not creating or acknowledging your own relationship categories and expectations straight from the beginning. You need to know what you want before your emotions put you in a place where you are confused, feeling heavily about someone, or questioning physical intimacy and sex. If you are ready to date, the first question you should ask yourself is “What am I looking for?” Is it marriage material or simply companionship? Is it somewhere in between? Be clear about what you want, what you will call it and what you will allow. Some people love to date for food and sex. If that’s what you want, be clear about it and know labels aren’t allowed in that dynamic. If you are dating for marriage, be clear about that. Get to know the person. Take your time becoming friends. Ask the difficult questions about their parenting style, beliefs, past relationships, STD’s etc... The conversations look very different when you know what you are looking for and then there is no confusion about labels because you have made it clear what your intentions are and what you are seeking in someone else. If they are not looking for the same goals then they need to be honest about that too!

Not being open about commitment, avoidance: Honest communication is a great way to get closer to people and create clear and strong boundaries in relationships. Miscommunication is the number one relationship killer. The issue is many of us don’t even know what’s wrong with us so we can’t openly communicate the blocks and feelings connected to the issue. I find a lot of people who are afraid of commitment desire companionship and love more than anyone because the issue itself usually stems from never feeling good enough for anyone. This can occur from a childhood wound of absent parents, traumatizing departures, divorce and separation, being cheated on by an ex, having your heart broken, or even abandonment. They want love, they are just afraid they aren’t worthy of it and run away from everyone that shows them love. If you have seen this pattern surface for you, get therapy! Heal it! Stop hurting people because you are hurt. If you really want a healthy love you need to get healthy about the past and stop expecting other people to be your sounding board, therapists or nurses. That’s never going to be good for either of you. Heal the wound, change the story. Let yourself be loved. You are absolutely worth it. We all are.

Sometimes people with this pattern will continue seeking surface relationships that aren’t fulfilling. “They are pretty, and nice. But I’m not obsessed, head-over-heals or satisfied in this relationship. I love them, but not enough to be afraid of them leaving me.” This means you are choosing someone that is not in energetic alignment with who you are, because you are afraid to fall deeply and afraid to loose that deep powerful sense of love and connection. My favorite quote from Spirit is “Fear will always lead us to the road where that fear manifests. The only way to break the pattern is to seek and react from love. Not fear.” So if you are afraid, the only way to break that is to let yourself feel deeply. Loving and loosing is far better than never truly loving at all.

Not being transparent: transparency is my favorite thing! I say how I feel. I set healthy boundaries. I share my stories and emotions. I get to the shadow of the problem fast. Honesty is powerful and something I have always made a mandatory part of life. As someone who reads energy, the lies, manipulation, or withholding information has never worked for me. I already see, hear and know the thing you don’t have the courage to say. So I see it as a manipulation tactic. Be transparent, it’s brave. If you have a question, ask it. If you want a relationship just for fun then make that clear. If you’re into some wild fetishes, also make that clear. You will find someone just as wild as you, believe me they are out there. If you’re not courageous enough to be open about your likes and dislikes, then you have to heal the shame wound with that. The only way we heal patterns of shame is exposing them! We can’t shame anything we’re comfortable expressing. We live in an amazing, open, and shameless world now! There are apps and groups made for fetish fantasies and connections. Get the thing you want, with consent. Speak the fetish. Share the desires. Explore. Evolve and communicate. Let the shame go! It will never lead to a healthy place to hold onto those secrets. The repressed desires can lead to deviant sexual obsessions and self-destruction or abuse. They don’t go away. The only way to heal them is either in therapy, past life repair, counseling, or by seeking them in a consensual way.

In my view, if you want an authentic, powerful, loving relationship or just a “friends with benefits” type of relationship, the best results always occur in relationships where that’s authentically and openly expressed. Healing means changing the pattern, otherwise it will continue to limit us. So I challenge you to try breaking one of these patterns above, if you feel called to change the way you connect to people.

Healthy relationships require healthy communication patterns. Let’s leave the games in 2022.

copyright protected Jessenia Nozzolillo, 2023

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